You say you can't meditate because you "can't stop thinking." But, really, not thinking is not what it's about. The point of meditation is to bring you to clarity so you know you are in fact thinking, or planning, or being depressed or hungry or angry or (it could happen) happy. The point is to become mindful—not mindless. Most mental activity, you'll see, distracts you from knowing what's actually going on in and around you. We're often lost in thought or worry, absorbed in the past or future. Meditation slices through the fog and brings you right back home, to where you actually are. It's not woo-woo, it's not esoteric or exotic. It's brain training. Try this to get the flavor (you'll probably want to close your eyes after reading the instructions to reduce visual input):
- Sit in an upright but comfortable way. Scan your body to check that you're relaxed—your eyes, jaw, shoulders, belly, hands, legs. Sit and know that you are sitting. Become aware of your breath moving in and out. Think "out" when you feel the fall of the exhalation, "in" when you feel the rise or pressure or stretching or tingling of the inhalation (what are the sensations?). When your mind wanders—there's no question it will—acknowledge that you've lost contact with your breath, and watch the next inhalation roll in.
- The most important thing to realize is that every moment you notice you've wandered off is a moment of being aware, of clarity. That's what you're going for. What does it feel like? Within nanoseconds, you'll be thinking again, and becoming aware that you're thinking, and starting again. The more you do it, the more you'll have the experience of that pause when the mind is actually clear and present—that taste of freshness.
- You can do this anytime, for any amount of time. Try it for a minute, try it for 10. Pay close attention to a single in-breath, a single out-breath. Every experience of awareness makes the next more likely. The enrichment to your life has to be experienced to be believed.
The beginning meditation instructions described above are based on the teachings of Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, and others in the Buddhist Insight Meditation tradition. For further information, go to Dharma.org, Tricyle.com, InquiringMind.com. For a clear introduction to the purpose and method of Buddhist meditation, read Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom by Joseph Goldstein (Shambhala); A Heart As Wide As The World by Sharon Salzberg (Shambhala); The Wise Heart, A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology by Jack Kornfield (Bantam).